Kansas hate preacher that plans funeral protests controls family compound

News Summary/December 19, 2012

The so-called "Westboro Baptist Church", which is actually not affiliated with any Baptist denomination, is run by itinerant hate preacher Fred Phelps. The independent church only has about 75 members and 80% are reportedly related to Phelps.

Fred Phelps was born in 1929 in Meridian, Mississippi. He considers himself a "Calvinist preacher", which includes the belief that only those that God specifically elects are saved. Individuals supposedly can do nothing to effect this salvation. "Man has no free will," Phelps told a reporter.

Phelps was once appointed to West Point, but instead enrolled in Bob Jones University, which he never attended. He received a theology degree from John Muir College in California. Later Phelps went to Arizona where he met his wife Marge and they married in 1952. His first child Fred Jr. was born in 1953.

Phelps founded his church in 1955. His other jobs included working as a door-to-door salesman, selling insurance, vacuum cleaners, dictating machines and baby carriages. His family has also sold candy.

Phelps graduated from Washburn University law school in 1964. But by 1969 his license was suspended. He was disbarred by the Kansas Supreme Court in 1979 and later also disbarred from federal court. But the Phelps clan includes ten practicing attorneys within its chartered family law firm. Shirley Phelps-Roper, a lawyer in the family firm, seems to be the heir apparent to her aging father.

But even among the family faithful there have been defections. Three of Fred Phelps' children left and never returned. Two of his sons, Mark and Nate, left the church in the 1970s. His daughter Dortha left in 1990 and changed her last name to Bird. Dortha once told a reporter, "I felt like I was being controlled, and I didn't have any freedom. If I didn't follow everything the pastor, or shepherd of the flock, says, I wasn't right with the Lord".

Fred Phelps doesn't want to reconcile with his departed children. Instead he told the press, "The notion is repulsive to me". He cited the bible in an attempt to rationalize his intransigence as somehow being a religious obligation explaining that "Moses" warned about those that "go another way". He then inferred that such defectors should be stoned.

Phelps rules over his remaining family flock from behind a large mahogany desk situated in a workroom next the church sanctuary. The church and the homes of his followers are contained inside a compound surrounded by a chain link fence near Topeka Kansas.

Phelps is known for his "fire-and-brimstone" sermons and condemnation of gays. He and his followers frequently picket hi-profile funerals to garner attention. Members of the group often hold up large signs that read "God Hates Fags".

Phelps seems to enjoy the attention he has received and reportedly "finds great solace in knowing he is almost universally despised". The preacher told the Wichita Eagle in Kansas, "If I had nobody mad at me, what right would I have to claim that I was preaching the gospel?"

Many states have considered laws to ban Phelps and his followers from picketing the funerals of slain soldiers. Since the group took up such protests Fred Phelps has reportedly been called "the vilest of the vile, inhuman, even insane", but he "considers this evidence of his righteousness, proof that he is preaching the truth of God" [sic].

Phelps quotes the New Testament (Luke 6:22) to suggest his actions somehow exemplify "righteousness". He recited a biblical scripture for a reporter, "'blessed are ye when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you and cast out your name.'"

The Phelps family has picketed thousands of times. Their self-styled hate crusade has included protests at the funerals of Frank Sinatra; Barry Goldwater; Mr. Rogers; and Coretta Scott King.

Phelps was once was a supporter of the civil rights movement and honored by the NAACP. However, he later said, "I'm mad at them for turning that movement over to the fags." Phelps reportedly has featured a poster with the photo of Coretta Scott King by his pulpit that reads "King in Hell".

It seems that the Phelps family will do almost anything to please their patriarch and satisfy his thirst for attention. This personality-driven group, which can be seen as a type of family cult, has reportedly allocated considerable sums of money annually to fly around the country promoting its particular brand of hatred.

Note: This news summary is based upon an article titled "Raising Cain in God's name" by Fred Mann published by The Wichita Eagle April 2, 2006

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.